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COVID-19 driving fabric sales as people make homemade masks

PHOTO. Packages of face masks on April 29, 2020. RMWB Council will meet on Oct. 13, 2020, to debate a bylaw that would call for mandatory masking of all residents in public spaces across the region to mitigate possible community transmission of COVID-19. (PHOTO: Tony Fera, CityNews)

WINNIPEG – Coronavirus is driving sales through the roof at fabric stores as more people are buying material to make their own masks at home.

Beth Syrnyk is the retail manager of Marshals Fabrics and she says summertime historically comes with lower sales.

Since the pandemic began, sales have surged and keeping certain fabrics in stock has become a challenge as people continue to line up out the door.

“Our cotton sales have just spiked because everybody in the world is looking for cotton right now,” said Synryk.

“And there was a point we have a couple of suppliers in the US and the US government decided they don’t want to send us cottons.”

Synryk says other suppliers have stepped up to keep the cotton coming in which is important because it is the number one material choice for making masks at home.

As soon as new cotton swaths arrive, people buy them out and then it’s a waiting game for the next batch to arrive, she says.

“One of my main goals is to get people more interested in sewing, now COVID-19 wasn’t my idea of ideal choice to get them back into sewing but whatever works.”

“As soon as the pandemic hit I started to think like, im going to come up with a mask I feel will be comfortable, and people will feel comfortable wearing it,” said Greg Blagoev, a clothing designer in Winnipeg.

He’s one of many scooping up fabric to make masks.

Blagoev is using windproof and waterproof materials as well as other fabrics in his masks which retail for $40 each. Blagoev makes masks in four different sizes, cutting and sewing them together by hand.

“You know what we’re going through is something that’s not so easy to deal with day-to-day.”

Blagoev is selling his masks to people in Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal and expects business to only grow as students return to school.